Apostle Peter - the Passion to love God

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(Acts 5:29 NKJV) But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.

June 19, 2005. An AFP article entitled "No parties or sex, but Singapore's gay Christians can gather to pray" was published in the Today's newspaper. It highlighted the discrimination against Gays in Singapore where their freedom is limited to worshiping God at Free Community Church (FCC) albeit only recently in an infamous corner in Chinatown.

One of its well known supporters is Reverend Yap Kim Hao, a former bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore and Malaysia who says the FCC church is a place for gay Christians shunned by the mainstream churches to worship together. The retired pastor of 76 was adamant that being Gay is not a sin. By taking such a position, Reverend Yap must have had experienced much soul searching to take a position so contrary to the prevailing views of society (the AFP article highlighted that 70% of the population are homophobic ), his religious education at seminary, and the tradition and teachings of the Methodist church he was a major part of for over 40 years. In addition, Reverend Yap's reputation and life's work built up over many years would be tarnished. Why would any body especially at his age and after doing so much for the church would be willing take a stand resulting in much condemnation and ridicule? It is not that Reverend Yap is a Masochist or seeks martyrdom . Instead, I believe he is motivated by the passion to love God just like Apostle Peter in Acts 11:17, whose love for God transcends his own personal opinions and background such as to embrace gentiles into the church. Likewise Reverend Yap embraces Gays into the Christian Church because it is of God, and he loves God too much to deny this.

Do we have a passion for God? for the love of God?. Apostle Peter declared to Jesus and to the rest of the Apostles that he loved God more than all of them, (Mat 26:33) that even if they all betray Jesus, he would never do so!. But when Jesus was hauled before the Jewish High Priest, Peter betrayed Jesus. He denied Jesus, not once or twice, but three times (John 18:27) when he had said previously that he would 'never' do so. When all hope was lost, we could understand the anguish that Peter went through. He loved Jesus very much perhaps more than the rest. But in reality, even with this high level of conviction, he loved himself more than he loved God. Many great preachers and man of God just like Peter boast of their love for God but few actually really do so.

Love is not love until it is tested and refined by fire. It is failure that brings us to humility. At the breakfast at the beach with Jesus (after Jesus's resurrection). Jesus asked Peter whether he still loved Him more than the rest (John 21:15). Jesus asked three times, not because he doesn't know the heart of Peter who has suffered so much anguished for denying Jesus earlier, but for Peter to declare to himself and to the world that he loved Jesus completely just as He had earlier Jesus denied completely. (In bible - 3 denotes complete). Finally, Peter loved God completely, and he was now ready to feed the church the truth concerning Jesus.

In today’s mainstream Christian Church in Singapore, weekly, the preaching exalts the congregation to love God with all their strength , with all their mind, and soul. Don't they know that Jesus address this exaltation to a Jew as a summary of the law and not to the Church. Nobody could love God with all the heart, soul, and mind. Not even the Apostles nor Peter their leader. Under law, Apostle Peter deserved death, for in one stoke he has violated ALL the law, and this was not a 'small' violation, he literally failed to love God, who was incarnated as man in Christ Jesus.

At the breakfast with Jesus, it was Grace that melt Peter's heart. Peter did not as would be demanded by most churches today to confess of his sins and to repent and go through a period of restoration before returning to ministry etc etc. Jesus is not like the church today is'int He?. Jesus offered Grace. He never did rebuke Peter for denying Him, He never gave Peter what he deserved nor sent him a one way ticket to hell which he deserved under the law. He gave Peter what he did not deserved. It was Grace that led Jesus to open the door for Peter to love Him again and to lead the church in Jerusalem. It was Grace that changes people, and not the law or trying to be more holy by our self efforts.

Peter's leadership was marked by his passion of God - the passion to love God. However, In most of the mainstream churches today, Peter would be quickly be excommunicated as the leader. He would be thrown out. In the church at Jerusalem, his lasting legacy was to implement a change so radical to accept gentiles into the church. The early church was comprised mainly of Jews. According to the law, non gentiles are not to have fellowship with Jews and certainly not to enter into the presence of God in the temple. No Christian Jew would ever accept a Gentile as a Christian. Peter struggled before God this issue. In a dream, God asked him to eat unclean foods so abhorrent to his religious background and personal opinions of morality. He questioned God. At the end, in Acts 10:15, it became clear God's position on this matter and that Peter would have to make a decision whether he would follow God or men's opinions (Acts 5:29). Peter chose correctly, and he followed God despite all the internal and external reservations brought about by his own upbringing and church leadership . He accepted Gentiles into the church and in doing so brought Christ love into the rest the world and not only as a Jewish sect. Later, in Acts 15:7-11, in the first Jerusalem council instituted to resolve the issue whether the now Gentile Christians should follow the law, it was Peter again who stood firm despite opposition to declare that it is by grace that we are saved and not law, and how can we insist on law keeping which Jews never could abide and which became a yoke of legalism in our Christian walk now that we are saved by Grace. Peter loved God too much for him to obey men rather than obey God. It was Peter's love and passion for God that resulted in an inclusive church.

The Gay issue currently debated in Singapore has much in parallel with the issues that Peter faced. Gays (assuming they have sex) are considered unclean under the law. Hence the early Christian church comprising mainly of Jews would have no dealings with Gays. They are considered immoral, dirty, and corrupt. Two thousand years later the word of God is the same that is:-

(Acts 10:15 NKJV) And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."

The Gay issue is ultimately not about Gays. It is about how much Passion for God - for the love of God that we have. Any learned theologian full of the Holy Spirit with an open heart to read and understand God's holy bible, would have come to a position that in our present dispensation, being Gay is not a sin. To say otherwise would be to commit intellectual suicide and to live in denial. But in reality despite what we say and proclaim in public, we actually love ourselves and men more than we love God. We should be like Peter, having a passion to love God, the love that transcends man's opinions about what others would thing, and love that transcends the fear that we ourselves will suffer repercussions as a result of our stand and may even loose our livelihoods. The question that Jesus asked Peter echoes through history to our time ... (John 21.15) ... "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" ... i.e. do you love me more than what would men say about you, do you love me more that the persecution that you may need go though, do you love me to be willing to change your views and follow me despite reservations! Jesus is calling each of us to come before God and have breakfast with Him just as Peter did.

Today, the Holy Spirit is calling out. Are we willing to be like Apostle Peter, or in our modern day, Rev. Yap Kim Hao that we may make a difference and be greatly used by God!. Are you willing to be counted to bring Christ into the Gay community or are we so self righteous as to preserve Christianity strictly for the Straights.

At the end of Peter's ministry in AD 70 (1 Peter, 2 Peter), he was standing in the midst of the ruins of Jerusalem. It had become like Babylon to the Jews. The temple desecrated by the Roman attack with more than 1,000,000 Jews killed and now many of Peter's Christian fellowship dispersed to Asia Minor. Peter's church was no more. His work over 40 years appears lost in the smoldering ruins. He wrote to the Diaspora in Asia Minor (1 Peter, 2 Peter) not to be discouraged by the trials that they have just gone through having escaped from Jerusalem with most of their friends and relatives dead. Peter would have hoped that Jesus would come back to defeat the Romans just as he had hoped that Jesus would not die in the first place but would bring victory for the Jews against the Romans. These were all memories as Peter stand staring and dreaming in the midst of the ruins in Jerusalem knowing that he has not much longer to live in his old age.

In ending, Peter's final exaltation was for his Church now dispersed in Asia minor, not to forget the truths spoken in the bible and not to let people twist it especially the many teachings of Paul. (2 Pet 3:15,16). Whilst we are to guard ourselves to maintain the scriptural truths given, Peter exalt his church to grow just like he did more and more in grace and also knowing and understand more about Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Peter was not upset that he lost everything - his life's work, his church, his leadership, because Peter's passion for God - his love for God was so great - that he could just as Jesus said - not my will but yours be done - not Peter's will but Jesus's will be done.


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